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German family minister quits over plagiarism scandal

May 19, 2021

Franziska Giffey has resigned after coming under fire over allegations of plagiarism for a dissertation submitted in 2010. The minister maintains that she wrote her thesis in good faith.

Angela Merkel with Franziska Giffey
'I regret if I made mistakes,' says Franziska Giffey, pictured here speaking to Chancellor Angela MerkelImage: Michele Tantussi/dpa/Reuters/picture alliance

German Family Minister Franziska Giffey stepped down from her position on Wednesday over a long-running doctorate plagiarism scandal.

The Family Ministry confirmed that the politician from the center-left Social Democratic Party had offered her resignation to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Giffey, 43, came into the spotlight in February 2019 over a doctoral dissertation she submitted to the Free University of Berlin in 2010 which allegedly contained plagiarized passages.

"In the last few days, there have been renewed discussions about my dissertation from 2010," said Giffey in a press statement. 

"The members of the federal government, my party and the public are entitled to clarity […] Therefore, I have decided to have the federal president dismiss me from my position as family minister," she added.

Commenting on the allegations of plagiarism, Giffey said: "I still stand by my statement that I have written my work to the best of my ability […] I regret if I made mistakes."

Giffey hopes to continue SPD efforts

Following a review of the dissertation, the Berlin university reprimanded Giffey but ruled unanimously in October 2019 that she could keep her PhD in political science, adding that issues identified in her dissertation did not justify withdrawing the title.

In November last year, Giffey said she would no longer use her doctorate title, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported. Before that, she had stressed she would resign as minister if her title was revoked by the university.

Giffey has served as minister for women and family affairs since March 2018. Prior to that, she served as mayor of Berlin's Neukölln district.

She said she would stick to her plan to run for Berlin mayor in an election in September. 

There was no immediate announcement on who would replace Giffey in the government.

Berlin-Neukölln mayor: 'We need a strong state'

mvb/nm (dpa, AFP, Reuters)